Washington D.C. — On April 3, 2017, President Donald Trump signed House Joint Resolution 69 (HJR 69) into law. The legislation rescinds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2016 Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule (Refuge Rule). The Refuge Rule was enacted to protect native carnivores on Alaska’s refuges from the state’s Board of Game (BOG) predator management program, which allows practices such as the killing of bears with cubs and wolves with pups, as well as the hunting of animals from aircraft, among other things.
As EnviroNews reported, the USFWS originally created the Refuge Rule in response to the notion that, “In recent years, concurrent with its adoption and implementation of [Intensive Management (IM)] plans for predation control areas, the BOG has also authorized measures under its general hunting and trapping regulations that potentially increase the take of predators to a degree that disrupts natural processes and wildlife interactions.” As part of its goal of maintaining moose, caribou and/or deer populations at set objective levels for human consumption, the BOG liberalized “hunting and trapping regulations for wolves and bears,” allowing controversial killing practices that wildlife advocates deem inhumane.
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“What the Senate did today should outrage the conscience of every animal lover in America,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society, in a press release when the bill passed the Senate March 21. “The passage of this bill means that we’ll see wolf families killed at their dens, bears chased down by planes or suffering for hours in barbaric steel-jawed traps or snares.” He also mentioned “luring grizzly bears with food to get a point-blank kill,” as another technique that will return in the absence of the Refuge Rule.
HJR 69 is a Congressional Review Act resolution, which allows Congress to invalidate a federal regulation like the Refuge Rule within 60 legislative days of its taking effect. The issuing agency of the rejected rule, in this case the USFWS, cannot later issue a “substantially similar” rule.
“This bill is inhumane, unsportsmanlike and dangerous to Alaska’s ecosystems. I am strongly against [HJR 69],” said Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), when he argued against it on the House floor in February 2017. He explained the bill is unscientific and violates the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which ensures that national wildlife refuges “conserve species and habitats in their natural diversity.” Defenders of Wildlife also cited this Act, along with the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, as established legal opposition to HJR 69 in March, but to no avail.